Takeaways from Cloud Computing Expo 2011

Takeaways from Cloud Computing Expo 2011Thanks to our wonderful hosting partner, Rackspace, beAutomated received free admission to this year’s Cloud Computing Expo in Santa Clara. I attended for 2 of the 4 days. While this conference is more enterprise IT focused, there were plenty of small business and software application takeaways.

Before beginning my notes, I wanted to express my delight in gaining confirmation that our niche business of building custom WordPress Plugins provides immense value to businesses and organizations of all sizes. Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) like ourselves accumulate years of knowledge that simply get lost within larger IT operations. ISVs provide affordable niche skills to clients who are concerned with turnaround speed. The value of custom core applications for businesses far exceeds anything that the cloud itself can provide, simply due to the nature of cloud software being contextual for a wide audience. Also, automation is considered essential for businesses of all sizes to control operating costs and enable superior, unique functionality that puts users in the driver’s seat. Finally, because change delivers business value, we’ll always have work in our industry!


  • Money is in core software applications, not in storage or middleware applications.
  • Service Level Agreements (SLAs) should offer different levels, such as levels 1 through 4.
  • Successful application stores are noted for being ecosystems for developers and communities.
  • Businesses and consumers care about functionality rather than the infrastructure elasticity technicians look at.
  • Consumers want applications on demand, so there is power in self-service portals.
  • Prepackaged solutions are too rigid. Instead, plan a blueprint (or a wizard) to custom build packages automated in realtime. The package itself becomes irrelevant compared to the manageable, upgradeable instructions that built it.
  • Change delivers business value, so make updates efficient to allow the most change.
  • Keep resources organized to answer who, what, when, and where. Source code must have version control, continuous integration, agile development.
  • Most businesses value speed of delivery above all else.
  • Core (custom) applications have immense value versus contextual commodity applications (e.g., accounting, and payroll).
  • Usability requirements are increasing due to mobile apps making things more simple and intuitive.

Cloud Infrastructure, Platform, and Software Services (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS)

  • Server templates are built of (in layered order): drivers, operating systems, middleware, and management interfaces. These templates do not usually have custom apps as part of them, but there are vendors providing tools to build customized templates for mass deployment. Custom template tools have versioning of every software package within the template.
  • Templates cannot have already excepted licenses or regional settings. Leave that for the deployment teams.
  • Architecture gets too complex without automation. For example, you are better off getting an address to a destination along with a map instead of somebody’s directions how to get there. Don’t offer a service until you have an automation engine that runs your blueprint.
  • Focusing on custom blueprints and automation prevents vendor lock-in. Open automation gives choice and portability, raising the level of abstraction.
  • Rollback is the version control of the production environment. Always have an easy way to reverse updates.
  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is used by companies to avoid “the IT beast” and quickly get access to software, but that still only provides generic commodity software.
  • Most software inventions take place in noncritical department level applications, then they become needed to deploy elsewhere and get rewritten for compatibility, then scale and become commodities, and finally get outsourced by the time everyone else uses it.
  • IT often gets asked to “fix” SaaS packages and they have to provide a custom layer to address needs.
  • Corporate IT departments loose knowledge at incredible rates, as they bleed into so many skill sets. Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) can focus on their work and accumulate knowledge with better budgets and flexibility.

Cloud Application Programming Interfaces

  • APIs expose capabilities to new channels.
  • APIs leverage the developer communities to build more and expand the reach.
  • As examples, eBay gets 60% of its activity through APIs, twitter 75%,and salesforce 65%.
  • APIs enable moving to the cloud by making applications portable.
  • The best APIs offer clear value, are simple, well documented, supported, secure, atomic, and collaborative.
  • When evaluating an API, developers typically gauge its activity, test it out, then search for answers to errors they run into by consulting search engines and/or forums.
  • APIs should get versioned, certify developers for them, offer sandboxing capabilities, and monitor or throttle their traffic to ensure quality.
  • For an API to be effective, providers must attract, manage, and support developers.
  • Incorporate multi-vendor functions such as OAuth, OpenID, and Federation to attract a wider developer audience.
  • Provide realtime notifications of updates or outages via Twitter or other methods.

Business Models

  • “You get what you measure.”
  • Vendors and providers differ in that the former sells services while the latter usually supplies them.
  • Model the value propositions of faster, better and cheaper to various options and consider the network connectedness of these value propositions.
  • Value propositions are a function of markets, operation metrics, and strategies for monetization.
  • Consider the macro (outer industry) and micro (inner industry) applications of offerings.
  • Micro concerns are based on operations, growth and contracts.
  • Macro concerns are based on community, channels, and industries.
  • Choice of standards drives decision making.

Many thanks to all the speakers including Brett AdamMike JonesJames WeirAlistair Farquharson, and Mark Skilton.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Note that we really appreciate feedback about what we’ve written as well as what topics you’d like us to discuss in future posts so please do let us know.